Testing bus lane cameras but not for enforcement yet


Other countries have recognized the importance of bus-lane cameras for proper enforcement. (Photo via Manchester Evening News)

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed the beginnings of a bus renaissance in New York City. With the help of the NYC Department of Transportation, the MTA has begun to roll out a series of improvements designed to speed up bus traffic. The Select Bus Service, a not-quite Bus Rapid Transit plan that involves dedicated bus lanes and pre-board fare payment options, has been met with early success as the Bx12 in the Bronx has seen marked decreases in travel times.

Yet, the one enforcement technique that would truly improve bus service and make those supposedly dedicated lanes truly bus-only has been blocked at nearly every turn. Without approval from Albany, DOT and the MTA can’t implement a camera-based enforcement system, and this key piece to the bus puzzle has hit legislative roadblocks at every turn. In 2008, David Gantt, an Assembly representative from Rochester, killed a home rule-endorsed camera-enforcement measure over what he said were civil liberties concerns. This year, the Assembly has, for now, removed a watered-down camera plan from the state’s 2010 draft budget.

Still, the MTA marches on. Per WNYC, Transit is going to test a camera enforcement system along some of the Select Bus Service routes in the coming months. Page 59 of this week’s MTA Bus Committee meeting report offers up more information. The authority plans to spend $167,000 to work with a London-based vendor over the next ten months. This timeframe will allow the MTA four months for startup work and six months to engage in a pilot program.

During the 10-month rental period, the MTA and DOT are going to test a series of bus lane enforcement systems. DOT will be conducted the fixed-post test in which cameras are stationed on – you guessed it- fixed posts along the bus lanes, and Transit will be experimenting with two systems: one that mounts cameras on the backs of buses and another that utilizes roving unmarked road maintenance vehicles. The MTA will test these systems on two road maintenance vehicles and two M101 buses.

While Zenco, the London-based contractor, has expertise in the field, the MTA has to work within an additional parameter. Because New York City law allows cars to use bus lanes for “the expeditious drop-off/pick-up of passengers and to make right turns,” the camera technology has to be able to identify between those cars making a legal use of a bus lane and those that are not.

Although the MTA cannot do anything but collect data about bus-lane violators during this trial, it is a forward-thinking proposal. If the State Senate and Assembly can come to terms on a bus-lane enforcement solution this year, the authority will be well on its way toward identifying potential partners and solutions for a problem that demands a complicated solution. The grant of enforcement remains out of reach, but one day, the city will be able to exploit its needs for a better bus system. When Albany acts, the MTA and DOT might just be ready to take advantage of their new-found enforcement powers.

Categories : Buses

9 Responses to “Testing bus lane cameras but not for enforcement yet”

  1. David says:

    At the end of the first paragraph, that should be “marked DEcreases in travel time,” no?

  2. Rhywun says:

    “New York City law allows cars to use bus lanes for ‘the expeditious drop-off/pick-up of passengers…'”

    The law of unintended consequences says that this will lead to courts flooded with parkers claiming they were only dropping someone off, and to zero improvement in bus speeds.

    • I don’t think that’s so much “the law of unintended consequences” as “the laws made by people who don’t really care.”

      • Andrew says:

        The right turn provision is reasonable, although I’d prefer if right turns were restricted to only a handful of cross streets. (Incidentally, on Madison, right turns are prohibited when the bus lanes are active.)

        The drop-off/pick-up provision is ridiculous. Drop-offs and pick-ups can take place around the corner. If you really enjoy dropping people off and picking people up in a bus lane, apply for a job as a bus driver!

  3. Al D says:

    We’ve had red light cameras now for years. We have security cameras all over Midtown and Downtown watching our every move. Now, suddenly, we can’t put a camera on bus just to speed it up? What is wrong with this picture?

    • Andrew says:

      Even red light cameras are severely restricted by the state – I think to 50 cameras citywide. I don’t see why we can’t have as many cameras as we like. As a pedestrian, I’d feel a good deal safer if they were at every signalized intersection.

  4. Sharon says:

    The single biggest improvement in bus speed in Brooklyn would be to have cameras in front of the bus to ticket those parked in bus stops

  5. danny says:

    who’s monitoring the bus drivers who dont stay in empty bus lanes but clog up traffic in the next lane and use the bus lane to angle their bus to the curb for drop off. To ensure they dont have to merge back into traffic (i used to drive a bus )

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